Monday, November 27, 2006

Tim's Tirades: Valerie D'Orazio

following up on the Valerie blog, Tim's Tirades has a piece that is the perfect sort of op ed writing that makes me furious. I don't know Tim, he may be a very nice person, but his stand on this needs to be brought out. The original is pretty long, and rambles for a while, so follow the link above when you're done here and read (or skim) the whole thing yourself.

in his thoughts on Occasional Superheroine Tim writes:

There is blood, sweat, and tears (literally and figuratively) all over it and it was a worthy site for Johnston to turn his eye.

And yet…I can’t bring myself to link to it myself.

…Pieces like this always trip me up. Call it my liberal guilt or male guilt or white guilt or whatever. Thrown any label you want on it but the result is the same. I feel lousy for the way things are because, often, I am completely unaware of how bad they are.

Way to get behind Valerie Tim! Way to support a woman who, at the very least, was royally screwed by the corporate politics and messed up medical advice that she was given! Tim then proceeds into a segue over his being fairly sheltered in his life (my paraphrase, but I think a fairly accurate one) to try and justify not actually using his ability as a quasi-news gatherer of things relevent to comic to further support the blog and its efforts to tell a real and courageous story.

Here's a clue Tim: when someone tells you that the world isn't the cozy place that you were brought up to think that it is, don't crawl back into that little shell with a "I'm sorry! I didn't know!". As a human being you have the responsibility to others and not ignore reality, something that comics indsutry has a history of doing.

Don't hide behind the fact that you read and review books that come from the big two and that DC is implicated as her employer. You should be able to detach yourself enough to judge a piece of art or writing without having to encompass all that the company has done since screwing Siegle and Shuster (and actually makeing resitiutions to them and jack kirby in the last 30 years). If you can't, then perhaps reviewing comics isn't a good idea as a career. This industry chews them up and spits them out, and if you can't handle the truth of that, then don't be involved. If you're here, and you have a voice, you have to make a point of praising those who deserve it, and getting on those who don't.

Occasional Superheroine: Valerie D'Orazio

You read superhero comics? You need care about women being as equal human beings? You don't get off thinking about Moulton's Wonder Woman losing her powers when her wrists are bound (wink, wink)? Then you need to read this: Occasional Superheroine

File this under, well, wherever you wish, but horrendous “treatment of a woman” would be suitable key phrase, as would horrible corporate politics, and misogynist as well. Perhaps you could find a hundred different ways to look at this, but should you take the time to read through the posts and see Valerie’s story, it is one of a woman in the comics industry, and it follows the worst possible path that you can think of. It is also, thank god, a survivor’s tale, and brilliantly written, with enough humor to leaven what is almost an unbelievable amount of misfortune, and enough self knowing to acknowledge her own mistakes along the way.

We all are aware that this industry is certainly not bastion of feminism, and, sadly, the Simpson’s comic book guy remains a stereotype that is all too often proven rather than not, but Valerie’s story certainly shows of the inherent sexism in a way that, as a man, I’m aware of but not the victim of.

Valerie uses fake names throughout the piece, but has come public with her own name and so I feel comfortable using it here. She makes many, many salient points on the misogynist origins of many female heroes, and makes a great many points on what the industry could do to improve things. And they’re not all that drastic, but they would involve a rethinking of the "little boys club" mentality that has pervaded the industry for far too long.

Has this had any effect in the offices up at DC? As someone who worked for both Acclaim and DC as a freelancer, I have to imagine that it would be... discussed.

I feel terrible that Valerie had this happen to her, and she deserves our full support as community of readers. That's what I think.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Great Jack Kirby Mystery

Somewhere back in the dawn of time when I started this blog I was deliriously ecstatic by finally being able to get a 2x up Kirby FF page to add to the my collection. I still am ecstatic about it, and have not had the thing put into the frame as I like to pull it out and look at it up close. There is something very visceral about large art of that sort. It takes over the drawing board and is very physical to handle. Inking something that large involves your entire fore arm, not just a wrist. I like to imagine jack working vigoriously away on these pages at night.

But there is something interesting about the piece that has been bugging me. and I thought that I'd put it out to the assembled internet-land:
the liner notes on the page are wrong.

Below is the piece that I picked up: FF #20, page 14. Scanned off of the essential FF book as it's too damn big for my scanner. Now, thanks to the Jack Kirby collector, we've been fortunate enough to see pages and pages of stats of Jack's pencils, and we've been able to see many of Jack's liner notes that he did for Stan. Even more, much of the artwork that exists out in collectorville and dealerland all have the notes still on them. jack typically wrote in a strong, all caps style, examples of which you can see in the first illustation at the top of this post, and below this paragraph:

page 14, on the other had only has two liner notes, both in a tight scribble. Both are scanned here. The first is from just below jack's sig:

and the second to the left of panel 3:

So the question remains: why is the handwriting so different? Why no liner notes on the rest of the page? Any guesses anyone?

I'd love, if anyone has any further information about where this page has been before ending up in my hands, to know about it as well.

Edited to note: I fired off this info to Mark Evanier to ask his opinion and here is what he said:

I don't know who did that Jack Kirby signature but it wasn't Jack Kirby.

The other handwriting you noted on the margins of the F.F. page looks
like Stan's to me but I'd have to see it in person to be sure. Perhaps
he rewrote a Kirby marginal note just as a note to himself. The margins
of pages from that era are full of editorial notes from Stan and from
Sol Brodsky.
I'll follow this up with any more data that I can find on Lee's handwriting or Sol Brodsky's.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Romance Panel Cavalcade & Astro City

That's My Skull has one of those posts that made me laugh so hard that I almost blew beer out of my nose. Yes, the dreaded comic romance panel cavalcade. Its that damn funny. You owe it to yourself to go over and appreciate the time that it took to find all those.

And no Civil War posts out of me today. This latest issue is such a mess that I'm finding my brain doesn't want to think about it.

Did pick up Astro City: The Dark Age and I realize that while I like Astro City a lot, none of the issues over that last year or two have grabbed me as much as the first couple storylines, such as the kree/skrull... er, Confessor and Astro Boy series, or even the short "The Nearness of You" which is one of the best short stories that I've run across in the last several years.

Did Astro City jump the shark for me? I'd like to think that it didn't. Kurt is just off telling a number of different stories, and the overly long one with robert Mitchum as the alloyed criminal simply went on too long, but that doesn't mean that I don't have some affinity with the characters. I think that his attention is a bit diverted, that's all.

One Question?

Is it sad to feel like you're just mnot measuring up when no one that you link to has you in their blog roll? I feel like Matter-Eater Lad missing out in the Legion Roll Call (but at least I had a groovy Mike Grell costume).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Seven Hells, Jim Shooter and David Lapham

Seven hells has a great post on the Conway-ization of the JLA and exactly where Meltzer is pulling some plot threads and ideas from. And not in a bad way. It brings to mind a comment that Jim Shooter once threw at me that I've thought about on and off over the years.

David Lapham was drawing Warriors of Plasm at the time, and Jim had taken him over to meet Neal Adams, expecting that Neal would deliver a tough critique to the rapidly evolving artist just to sort of "give him a nudge." And Neal ended giving David a rather nice critique, letting Jim down. What Jim said that he was after was, and I'm forgetting all the context of the conversation here, so bear with me, to stop David from going whole hog on just doing things "his way". "There is always that point in an artist's development that they start to decide to do their "Iron Man" or their "Spider Man" and you have to control that."

And I found myself thinking, some of the heroes that I remember best were when the artists broke out of the house mold and did their versions. That was when things got fun. Those "non-generic" versions were the ones that burned their way into my brain. And, clearly, when Gerry Conway came over from Marvel in the '70's to DC, he brought as much of the Marvel style as DC's editors would accept, so we got a watered down "Marvel-style" JLA among other books.

Much like when Busiek wrote his "Avengers Forever" mini-series (with the killer Pacheco artwork), he was continuing the great Englehart Celestial Madonna saga as well as following up Thomas' Kree/Skrull war. Nothing wrong with that at all, except that he got caught in the continuity trap for too many issues. But it certainly let us know when little Kurt started reading comics.

I would say that there is nothing wrong with creators bringing their passion and love of their favorite issues to modern comics as long as they don't get so mired in the continuity that they spoil the story. Or if they start bringing back the Freak in Iron Man. Lets just not go there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Steve Englehart and Celestial Madonna

Brain Freeze has a great post summarizing the beautiful Mantis-Vision-Swordsman luv triangle from the '70's Avengers.

and I do mean LUV. Like LUV with a funky bootsy collins belt and platforms. '70's style

What I like about her post, besides a wonderful summation of all the twists and turns that the relationship between mantis and the swordsman took, is how true it is in terms of using some fairly cardboard stereotypes and making the soap opera aspect have some real legitimacy. Mantis was a very unlikeable character, and her loss of interest in the swordsman carries some weight emotionally since we've never seen a hero in the Avengers completely crack before. Mantis, like some very real and human women, transfers her attention to a completely unavailable man, where she mistakes his emotional coldness as a sign of attraction. Brain Freeze quite correctly notes that very rarely have we seen a major player (Mantis) in a book like the Avengers of that time who is so thoroughly unlikeable. All of this was a major step forward for comics at the time.

Somehow, however, she needs to get a copy of Giant Size Avengers #2, which has the great climax to the Kang/Celestial Madonna storyline. It has some real emotional wallop to it, and some seriously great art. It also carbon fried Kurt Busiek's brain, leading him to trying to continue the story in the Avengers Forever mini-series.

hey, it carbon fried my brain too back then. Where is my deluxe recolored copy, in hardback, of the Avengers/Defenders War? Now that is something I need!

Monday, November 13, 2006

In Review of: The Dark End of the Street by Brubaker & Cooke

Now we're talkin'. Seriously, this was a lot of fun. Isn't that what comics should be about every now and then?

The Slam Bradley back-ups here that comprise the first half of the book really show how well Brubaker can cook up a Private Detective story. Cooke and Hollingsworth combine for some serious noir, and we even get a rather matt Wagner Batman along for the ride.

I haven't followed the character of Catwoman for years, so I'm not sure what the reboot was from, although I suspect that it was the "water balloons stapled to my chest so I'm really unhappy" Jim Balent version of Catwoman. i find it interesting the see where DC is going with a character that certainly predated feminism by 30 years and that has swung back and forth over the criminal line too many times to count. Part of this has to be the rather sketch morality of Selena: she's a thief, and we'd hate to glamorize her, say the editors, but then they make her a cool customer, hot to look at, and give her an outlaws mystique. Hmm, had to have it both ways isn't it? Kids don;t do this, but it sure looks like fun.

As we enter the '00's, haven't we grown up enough to amass a fairly decent history of Selena, especially since we moved from the exploitive '90's finally. How many women really want to fight crime with massive wedgies? No wonder Brubaker has Selena thoroughly confused as to who she is in these first issues. i doubt anyone knows at this point, even the writer. Too often Selena has be thrown to the editorial winds of fate. She deserves better. Here, she gets it.

Cooke inks himself on the first part, the rough large brush strokes echoing Scorchy Smith, Frank Robbins, Caniff in a hurry. I love it. In the second part of the book, Cooke is inked by his polar opposite, Mike Allred, whose control and careful deliniation make for an interesting match. I like it as well, even though it comes across as a bit jarring.

My friend Lis can probably make the best case for Selena as the first true woman 9not just a cypher) in comics, escaping from her brutal husband and making it on her own as an international jewel thief in Batman #1. i'll let her fill in the details later. I'm just enjoying the read.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Big Monkey Comics Asks Big Questions

big monkey comics has this post up, questioning the viability of Moore and Miller titled Gods Among Men?

ut are they still what they once were?

Would anyone see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as anything more than a JLA peopled with literary characters if pitched by someone else? Would DC have even picked up The Dark Knight Strikes Again if it was proposed by someone less prolific?

I think these men were once big fish in a little pond, a pond which has since become an ocean.

Sadly, the post title and the question present in the post are not the same thing. It is almost a universal question to ask of artists as to whether they still measure up to a prior, loved work. Almost invariably, the work will not hold up, but sometimes it does. sometimes that artist and the artee grow apart, and the themes that drew you to their work are no longer gripping to the artee (see Ray Bradbury and the stunted views on sexuality that exist in some of his early fiction). sometimes the artist stays with the same themes and bores the hell out of his/her audience (woody allen).

Lets be frank (hah hah) on this: Moore, as i catalogued in my prior post on miracleman,is truly the god among men. he has a corner of comics valhalla that, literally, is unassailable. Frank, you could debate, but he's up there.

The question that the post asks puts us in the position having to decide where we sit as critics. Do we judge the new work of an experienced artist in view of their past body of work, or solely by its own merits? Are we even able to do that objectively having already seen the past works and themes that the artist has explored?

These are worthhier questions to be asked. Now go read From Hell, Daredevil: Born Again, Promethea, Batman: Year One, Miracleman, Lost Girls, 300 and go away.

The World of Pistoleras

Working hard on pages to the graphic novel. Here is what might be a cool cover for the book. Thoughts?

It'll Eat You Up and Spit You Out

The comic industry has a reputation of doing just that, with its relentless deadlines and endless soap opera-style stories. I'm reminded of this just finishing up Wally's World, the well written biography of wally wood. I commented on it earlier, in a comparison with Jack Cole, and waited til I had finished it before making further comment.

That Woody was a tremendous talent is understood, but I had to admit that over the years I had forgotten much of the work that he had done, and was certainly reminded of the absolutely stunning breadth of work that Woody put out there. I regret that I never had the opportunity to meet him, even though i started going to conventions in the mid-70's.

As someone who once went on to work two 22 hour days consecutively, followed by a 16 hour day when I first got into the comic biz, I found myself flashing back on the descriptions of how hard Wally would work on his art. Even more significantly, I treasured his maverick approach to creating work: publishing witzend, taking on the creation of the Thunder Agents, writing and drawing the Wizard King. Wally was far ahead of his time, no question, and like many pioneers never had the monetary compensation for their trail blazing originality that would have helped them tremendously.

Starger and Spurlock spend enough time to get you the background on Wally's life, enough that they don't have to push the psychology 101 class to the forefront of their writing and spell it all out. Who was this Wood fellow anyhow? Like the rest of us, he was complex, and you can only get a percentage of who he was by looking at his past. All of us, especially the artists, offer a different window to who we are depending on who is looking in. I don't expect to really know the man, just to get a little of who he was, thats all. The authors do a good job of that, no, an excellent job of that, and I'm glad that they did.

Wood deserved better than he got. But what he gave to us was amazing.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

In Review of: Selina's Big Score by Cooke

Intriguing cover isn't it? What's that you say, its not? No, of course it isn't. In fact, its one of the worst that I've seen in a long time when compared to the stellar work collected inside the covers.

Lets face it, I've never been a Catwoman fanatic, especially compared to my friend Lis who knows way more and has far more opinions about the character. But I've been wanting to spend more time with a Darwyn Cooke project, and found myself flipping through a number of trades.

What's not to like on this one? Besides the fact that we get convincing backstory for Selina and some good secondaries along the way. Slam Bradley even shows up and get some of the best scenes at the end, alond with a glorious rainstorm, the kind that only shows up in the best noir.

Frankly, if you want to sell me on the current version of Catwoman, you're going to have to give me a context taht the character makes sense in. And thats rather had when you consider that I'm finding a tough time getting a handle on the Batman these days, let alone the various permutations of the rogues gallery. I think that I would like a good run of issues on this version of Catwoman as long as they stayed true to the idea: she's a thief, she isn't a psycho or homicidal, her Gotham is dark and occasionally troubling and she isn't always in the right. not a bad premise for a character is it? Just keep her out of the "Infinite Crisis Spanning Multiple Earths" and we should be fine.

But what the hell is up with that cover?

Genshiken #7

Its not out yet. I'm so pissed off. The prior issues said that number 7 would be out Oct 31st, and ITS NOT.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Idle thoughts: Seven Soldiers, Fables and News-o-Rama

RAD has an interesting write up on the seven soldiers series over in Estoreal that, once again, makes me think about the format that we're buying comics in. Clearly Morrison is going for the hat trick with a series more structurally convoluted than Watchmen and trying to make the whole damn thing payoff in the right ways on the right pages.

What is intersting, other than the technical exercise, is wondering what the very best way that you could tell this story? i have to think that, while I have disparaged the pamphlet more than once, that the episodic nature of the monthly comic does, in this case, make for a good timed release (like those old fashioned Contact capsules). I'll be curious to follow the whole thing in the trades, as I realize that its all coming out in a fully sequential form, and see how it reads then. Bravo Grant, for the subtext, and for making the effort.

i've been picking up the Fables trades and enjoying the read. Willingham clearly has plenty to say and lots of fun picking and choosing where he wants to go with the stories. i've just read 1-5, and love seeing a series pick up steam. The first two trades were good, but I really got into the third, and I'm not sure if its a better story, or that I've spent enough time with the characters to care about them more so when it all hits the fan I have some emotional investment. The story sophistication continues with elements of 4 and 5, so I'll settle on the side of seeing a nice continued progression. Good stuff.

Lastly, news-o-rama has quoted and linked out to this very blog with comments on the state of the Marvel universe and, specifically, where things will end up with the important Marvel franchises. Cool. I had no idea that they did that. I only wish I knew how to link to a specific post rather than the general blog area so it was an easier direct link. Ah well, its nice to see that someone out there is paying attention.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Shout Out! Meltdown in Los Angeles

While in the city of the angels a couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to walk into what is literally the best comic shop outside of Midtown Comics in Manhattan: Meltdown at 7522 Sunset Blvd. I was absolutely blown away by the selection of cool stuff there, and the sheer amount. Never mind that they were setting up the gallery show, never mind that they had a cool Wonder woman collectibles through the ages display, they had tons of stuff to read and flip through and to just fall in love with from the touch of the paper and smell of the ink.

Mmmmmm, pretty pictures.

No, they didn't give me any free stuff for this plug, I'm just puttin' it out there that Meltdown totally kicks ass on other comic shops. Do yourself a favor and go by if you're in LA.